‘The Last Asian Supper’; 155 H x 300 W cm, 2014; Acrylic on Canvas, S $48,000
‘HETEROTOPIA’ COLLECTION by Ketna Patel
Multi-disciplinary artist Ketna Patel, uses grand narratives and references to renaissance paintings that are embedded in all our collective consciousness. She attempts to flatten time, blur geographical boundaries, and bring to the fore a certain ‘consumption’ of contemporary culture that seems to be at a major penultimate moment before it eats itself into oblivion. There is beauty and death in this moment, and underneath it all, a small seed of a new beginning.
In ‘The Last Asian Supper’, several individuals are having a junk food picnic in the setting sun. Strewn with litter, the scene shows them happily enjoying themselves, oblivious to the darkness that is about to fall around themselves. From the left to the right, we have Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad (Malaysia’s fourth Prime Minister), Suharto (Indonesia’s second President), North Korea leader Kim Jong-un, a ‘lady-boy transvestite, a Vietnamese rice farmer (about to pluck a certain banana), Aung San Suu Kyi (Burmese opposition politician and chairperson of the National League for Democracy in Burma), the Dalai Lama, (The 14th Dalai Lama is the 14th and current Dalai Lama, as well as the longest lived incumbent. Dalai Lamas are the head monks of the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism), Imelda Marcos (Filipino politician and widow of former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. Known also for her excessive obsession with branded shoes and handbags!), Junichiro Koizumi (Japan’s dashing, westernized Richard Gere lookalike ex Prime Minister; the only Prime Minister to have served more than five years in office since 1972), Lee Kuan Yew; the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, widely recognized as the founding father of modern Singapore.
In the heavens are Chairman Mao on the left (representing the left brained, practical Chinese psyche, and Mahatma Gandhi on the right, representing the female, chaotic and rather emotional Indian psyche!
Gandhi is meditating, and fasting. Chairman Mao, who was apparently a sex addict (and rumoured to have died of syphilis) is reading Playboy magazine. The three men on the left are either watching something on the computer, or are ogling at the lady boy. Its up to you how you want to interpret this. The Burmese leader is holding a loudspeaker, engaged in a conversation wit the Dalai Lama, who unfortunately cannot hear her, as he has his headphones on. (Do Politicians really listen to each other??) Imelda is busy stuffing herself with biscuits and chocolates. The geisha on the right hand side of the composition is very subserviently feeding the ex Japanese leader (Asia is a rather chauvinistic society, and I’m not sure women are really considered equals, so we still have a long battle ahead of us!)
The only individual in the narrative that is not dressed in colour is the gentleman sitting in this picnic, reading a book titled ‘How to build a nation’.
In the background is a collage of famous Asian architecture, including the Borobudur temples, The Hong Kong and Shanghai bank, the Twin Towers of Malaysia, the Taj Mahal in India and the Gardens on the Bay in Singapore. The setting sun is a deliberate metaphor for the transition of ‘lightness’ to ‘darkness’. Instead of the picnicers getting up and tidying themselves, they seem to be oblivious to time and the repercussions of their self-indulgence.
The ‘karaoke’ style visualization is also deliberate, to re-endorse the ‘unreal’ and ‘make believe’ aspects of our illusory, maya world (‘Maya’ in Sanskrit means ‘illusion’)
In ’Heterotopia’, Patel prods and pokes at the collective global bewilderment our civilization is presently facing. As previously upheld ideologies and financial systems topple, we are left gawking at twisted and unprecedented episodes of life unfolding all around us at lightning speed. Patel refers to the essay, Of Other Spaces, written by Michel Foucault in 1967, which has helped crystallize an ongoing polemic about our ‘re-mix’ society. A society where nothing is original, and we swim, even wallow in the fragmentary and chaotic currents of change, forever legitimizing our expressions by references to the past.
According to the Hindu concept of time cycles, we are presently living in the ‘Kali-yuga’; the age of hypocrisy. The myth has superseded the truth, resulting in a world brimming with ‘truth lies’. She questions “Who and what is controlling us? How much of us is conditioned, and how much is ‘original’? Are we cogs in a giant, irreversible wheel? Have Institutions and Corporations become so powerful that even in the information age, we cannot hear our own realizations?”
The title ‘Heterotopia’, is a concept of ‘spaces of otherness’, which are neither here nor there, that are simultaneously physical and mental, such as the moment you wake up after a dream, or the moment when you see yourself in the mirror. It could also be a moment of realization, which we individually observe; a moment of understanding that our beautiful and complex civilization is pregnant with death.
‘The Creation’; 155 x 155 cm, Acrylic on Canvas, 2013; S $ 22,000
‘Deep Pockets’, 122cmx122cm, Mixed Media on Canvas. Available in London directly from Artists’ studio @ Pounds Sterling 6000
‘Pink Bomb’, 122cmx122cm, Mixed Media on Canvas. SOLD.
‘Tears of Milk’, 200 x 200 cm; ASEAN Art Award winner. The Painting was bought in 2003 by an Art Collector in London who would now like to re-sell it. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.